By looking on an Eng lish Language website about Nanjing and using a map torn out of a magazine, we set off with our word-to-word dictionary to find a vegetarian restaurant famous for its faux meat. The good news – we managed successfully to use the subway system! (Not so challenging as we thought – the stations were written in Pinyin or roman letters in addition to the Chinese characters. Also, there’s only one line, so we had a 50/50 shot). Then we walked. And walked. And walked. We can ask for directions pretty well – Shanghai Lu zai nar? But being able to ask a question and being able to understand the answer are two very different things.
The restaurant we thought we were looking for turned out to be some kind of cafeteria, with no English words, and I think we were supposed to pay first then bring our ticket to a station, but there were all these different stations, and they all looked like they served meat. We couldn’t figure out where to start. The thing about knowing a few words in Chinese is that people think you understand Chinese, and they keep talking to you, slower and louder, but it doesn’t matter how slow they talk, you don’t know what words they’re saying! I have a new found appreciation for what American immigrants go through – and the Chinese people are way kinder than Americans to foreigners.
So we left that cafeteria place and, starving, thirsty, sweaty, and tired, stopped at a restaurant that said "Frog Prince Restaurant." English words – maybe they’ll have an English menu. The restaurant we stopped at yesterday had an English menu. No such luck. So we said "bu rou" (not meat) and "women bu che rou" (we don’t eat meat) and "women shi su de che" (we are vegetarians). Our waitress managed to nod and say a strained "not meat" in English back to us – I thought we had success. Then we got a big bowl of frog meat.
If you need the impetus to become a vegetarian, visiting China is a great way to start. They’re honest about where their food comes from. Outside one restaurant were live, and not-so-live, chickens in a tiny cage that were tonight’s dinner. The big market by us sells what I looked like swimming pickles, but then I noticed the heads – either snakes or eels.
Sorry, I haven’t figured out how to add pictures with the proxy yet.